Bill Description: Senate Bill 1238 establishes a self-directed learner designation that entitles qualifying students to participate in flexible learning opportunities.
Does the bill expand the existing government monopoly on education and shrink family and student choice or agency? (-) Conversely, does the bill expand the ability for families and students to choose the educational options that best meet their needs free of government intervention or coercion? (+)
Senate Bill 1238 creates a “self-directed learner” designation. A student may obtain the designation by satisfying four criteria. After that, the student gains “the right to flexible learning.” Flexible learning opportunities can be personalized to fit the needs of each student and may include options such as “flexible attendance, attending school virtually, extended learning opportunities, and any other agreed-upon learning inside or outside the classroom.” Flexible learning has significant potential to expand students’ ability to choose additional or alternative educational options that best meet their needs.
Analyst’s Note: Although the bill states that any “student attending public school in Idaho shall be eligible,” students do not become eligible to obtain the self-directed learner designation until 8th grade. That is because one of the criteria says that the student “starting in grade 8, [must] demonstrate an informed choice of post-secondary career and education goals.” While the bill expands choice for some students, it restricts eligibility to students in grades 8 through 12.
Despite the potential of flexible learning, schools do not have to let students participate in it. The bill states only that every “school district or public charter school may adopt a self-directed learner policy.” Consequently, the self-directed learner designation may not be available to every student who would otherwise be eligible.
Does the bill finance education based on the student rather than the institution? (+) Conversely, does the bill finance education based on an institution or system? (-)
Senate Bill 1238 provides that the charter or district school retains full student funding for each self-directed learner “regardless of attendance or actual hours of instruction.” The self-directed learner may attend the district or charter school for only a few hours on a particular day, yet for purposes of public school funding, that learner is “enrolled as one (1.0) FTE or in attendance for a full day in school.” This means that the bill funds institutions rather than students.
Does the bill allow schools to be more flexible, improve feedback mechanisms, and decentralize decisions to the family or individual level? (+) Conversely, does the bill add to the existing education bureaucracy? (-)
Senate Bill 1238 requires that any flexible learning opportunities be approved by the self-directed learner, the learner’s legal guardian or parents, and the learner’s teacher or teachers. This increases the role of families in making decisions about their students’ education and fosters dialogue between schools and families. The bill also requires that any criterion to retain the designation of self-directed learner be approved by the learner’s legal guardian or parents.
Does the bill create more transparency or accountability in public education institutions? (+) Conversely, does the bill reduce transparency and accountability in such institutions? (-)
Analyst’s Note: Senate Bill 1238 could create more transparency in public education institutions by requiring each public charter school or school district to provide an annual report to the State Department of Education stating the number of self-directed learners. This provision could marginally increase transparency by providing a clearer picture of how many students are participating, but it does not foster significant or substantive improvement.
Does the bill reinforce the idea of equal treatment under the law, merit, individual responsibility, personal agency, and expectations of academic excellence? (+) Conversely, does the bill allow for any type of discrimination against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group for any purpose on the basis of race, sex, color, economic class, ethnicity, national origin, geographic area, legacy status, or other identity group? (-)
Senate Bill 1238 reinforces expectations of academic excellence by rewarding students who demonstrate academic mastery with flexible learning opportunities. The bill also provides that if students fail to satisfy the criteria necessary to retain the self-directed learner designation or do not complete assignments, then the school’s building administrator “shall rescind the … designation upon recommendation by the teacher or teachers.” The bill reinforces the ideas of merit, individual responsibility, and expectations of excellence because students who do not satisfy the criteria to which they agreed lose the privilege of pursuing flexible learning opportunities.